And just like that this year’s Rolex Shanghai Masters became the domain of the younger generation when fifth seed Alexander Zverev and sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas impressively ushered Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, respectively, to the exit.
And with that a bit of history came into Asia’s biggest and most important men’s tennis event – for the first time in 20 years at a Masters 1000 (Hamburg 1999) all four singles semifinalists are 23 and under – Zverev is 22, Tsitsipas 21, and third seed Daniil Medvedev and 11th seed Matteo Berrettini are both 23.
Heading into Friday’s quarterfinals, neither Federer or Djokovic had ever lost a Shanghai quarterfinal. Federer had won his five previous quarters and Djokovic his eight appearances.
Federer saved five match points in the second set but could not escape a sixth in the third set to surrender 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-3 to Zverev. Tsitsipas was the first to play havoc with the draw in the afternoon when he ousted defending champion Djokovic 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.
“I mean, they’re knocking on the door big time, the young guys,” Federer said after his loss. “It’s exciting. They’re great. It’s really open now, I think, for the finish of this tournament.
“Yeah, it’s an exciting time in tennis. Nothing new there. So, it’s good.”
Zverev is one of three players to play Federer on at least seven occasions – 64 players have performed that feat – and to have a winning record over the Swiss Master. Zverev is now 4-3 against Federer, Djokovic is 26-22 and Rafael Nadal is 24-16.
Zverev will take on Berrettini, who edged past fourth seed Dominic Thiem 7-6 (8), 6-4, in the final match of a very busy Friday. The two are 1-1 in career meetings.
“Obviously the five match points I had in the second set, them going away and still knowing that I can win in three sets is very important, especially against someone like Roger because normally he doesn’t let go of these kind of matches,” Zverev said.
Tsitsipas hardly looked like the eventual winner against Djokovic in the first set, but he stepped up his game – in particular his serve – to win the outing.
“It’s the best comeback that I have ever had probably,” Tsitsipas said. “I would say also the Federer comeback (6-7, 7-6, 7-5, 7-6) in the Australian Open (this year) wasn’t easy. Same today, but with less sets, two sets, which was quite difficult for me to pull out. It was a very difficult victory mentally.”
Tsitsipas became the sixth player to earn passage to the year-end ATP Finals on Friday, something that happened even before he beat Djokovic. The deed was achieved when Daniil Medvedev conquered his quarterfinal opponent, Fabio Fognini 6-4, 7-6 (4).
Beating Djokovic was not something new for Tsitsipas, who now carries a 2-1 career advantage against the Serbian. Before he was even 21-years-old the Greek posted a victory against the three most famous names in the game – Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. He was the 102nd player to face Djokovic at least three tomes and has a winning record – he joins Fernando Gonzalez, Ivo Karlovic and Andy Roddick.
“I always dreamt of beating those players, and I see each match when I go out on the court as an opportunity to bring the best out of me,” Tsitsipas said. “I honestly feel like they are more threatened than I am, and I think also that gives me kind of like a more relaxed me out on the court.”
Djokovic won 24-0 consecutive sets in Asia until Friday’s defeat, which counted for his victory here last year as well as his win in Tokyo last week.
“Well, he deserved the victory. He was the better player,” Djokovic said of Tsitsipas. “Second and third set I started off very well, but then I wasn’t sharp. I lacked that little bit of, I guess, dynamic movement and acceleration in my shots. I mean, he did serve well, credit to him, but just wasn’t pleased with the way I played.”
In the semifinals, Tsitsipas will attempt to stop Medvedev from reaching a sixth consecutive final. At the moment, Medvedev is 12-0 in quarterfinals played this season, and holds a 40-1 record in winning matches played on hard courts when winning the first set.
Medvedev won 91 percent of his first serve points and never faced a break point during the 86-minute encounter with Fognini.
The Russian, who leads the tour with 57 match wins on the season, has beaten Tsitsipas all four times they’ve played.
“Stefanos, even though I won all of the matches (we played), they were all really tight,” Medvedev said. “He’s improving, also, every week. He’s still so young.”